Circuit breaker design pattern

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Circuit breaker is a design pattern in modern software development.

Circuit breaker is used to detect failures and encapsulates logic of preventing a failure to reoccur constantly (during maintenance, temporary external system failure or unexpected system difficulties).

Common Uses[edit]

Assume that an application connects to a database 100 times per second and the database fails. The application designer does not want to have the same error reoccur constantly. They also want to handle the error quickly and gracefully without waiting for TCP connection timeout.

Generally Circuit Breaker can be used to check the availability of an external service. An external service can be a database server or a web service used by the application.

Circuit breaker detects failures and prevents the application from trying to perform the action that is doomed to fail (until it's safe to retry).

Implementation[edit]

Implementations of the Circuit Breaker Design Pattern need to retain the state of the connection over a series of requests. It must offload the logic to detect failures from the actual requests. Therefore, the state machine within the circuit breaker needs to operate in some sense concurrently with the requests passing through it. One way this can be achieved is asynchronously.

In a multi-node (clustered) server, the state of the upstream service will need to be reflected across all the nodes in the cluster. Therefore, implementations may need to use a persistent storage layer, e.g. a network cache such as Memcached or Redis, or local cache (disk or memory based) to record the availability of what is, to the application, an external service.

Circuit Breaker records the state of the external service on a given interval.

Before the external service is used from the application, the storage layer is queried to retrieve the current state.

Performance Implication[edit]

While it's safe to say that the benefits outweigh the consequences, implementing Circuit Breaker will negatively affect the performance.

By how much depends on the storage layer used and generally available resources. The largest factors in this regard are the type of cache, for example, disk-based vs. memory-based and local vs. network.

Example Implementation[edit]

PHP[edit]

The following is a sample implementation in PHP. The proof of concept stores the status of a MySQL server into a shared memory cache (APC).

Check[edit]

The following script could be run on a set interval through crontab.

$db = mysql_connect('localhost','user','pass');
if ($db === false) {
    apc_store('dbUp', 'down');
} else {
    apc_store('dbUp', 'up');
    @mysql_close($db);
}

Usage in an application[edit]

if (apc_fetch('dbUp') === 'down') {
    echo "The database server is currently not available. Please try again in a minute.";
    exit;
}
$db  = mysql_connect('localhost', 'user', 'pass');
$res = mysql_db_query('database', 'SELECT * FROM table');

External links[edit]